Spouse vs. Spouse: Spanked for Spying with Spector Spyware

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A Florida court has ruled that it is not ok to install spyware on your spouse’s computer to monitor what they do, and that, indeed, to do so rises to the level of a punishable criminal offense.

The ruling arose in the context of divorce proceedings between James and Beverly Ann O’Brien. Beverly, apparently suspicious that her spouse was being unfaithful with someone with whom he conversed online, installed Spector, a PC Magazine award winning spy program, on his computer.

Low and behold, it turns out that the game of Yahoo Dominos wasn’t the only thing at which James was playing with his domino partner, and Beverly attempted to introduce the chat logs as evidence in their divorce case.

The evidence, however, was against Beverly, as the Court ruled that by installing the Spector spyware on James’ computer, and reading the logs, Beverly had in fact broken the Florida wiretapping law, which says that anyone who intentionally intercepts any electronic communication without appropriate authority commits a criminal act.

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Interestingly, in many if not most states now, an employer may monitor an employee’s online conversations.

This raises an interesting question. What do you think, dear readers?

Should a spouse be able to monitor the online conversations of their husband or wife?

Should an employer be able to monitor the online conversations of their employees?

What do you think?

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12 thoughts on “Spouse vs. Spouse: Spanked for Spying with Spector Spyware

  1. Computers run through phone lines so if an employer can use spyware or anything that reveals what your looking at it,then why can’t they listen or record your phone conversations.Either the phone or the computer has a third party attached to the other end when using either one and the employer isn’t asking permission of the 3rd party to illegally record or listen in to the conversation so to me it’s illegal and violates the user and the receivers rights to privacy.A employer doesn’t have the right to have cameras in the bathroom to see what your doing on company time,even though they own the restroom.

  2. Misactions against an another based on misobservations of keystroke logs should be illegal, and probably are, but may not be considered so, because the log records may seem to justify the actions. The employer should be accountable, even if a 3rd party commits the misaction, ie acting on the employers observations out of context.

  3. I think an employer does have the right to monitor what their employees do on the network. However, I feel an employer is obligated to tell their employees that all eletronic transmissions on the network may be monitored (and explain to them in plain english what that means). After all, the employer owns the computers and they are the ones paying for the Internet connection. In addition, an employer has the right to know if their “employee” is or is not sending out trade secrets. Another issue is that the employer has the right to know what kind of traffic is going through their network. It is all too common today for IM and website traffic to contain rogue coding that can compromise a computer network and system.

    As for spouses. That is a tough one. I can see the point of the wiretapping law. However, I also feel that one should have the right to know if their signigicant other is cheating on them. I feel they need to come up with some better laws in regards to recording of information on a PC.

    What I would like to know is that why do companies like Spectorsoft and other companies making similar software continue to advertise the use of their software to “catch them cheating”? I am sure Spectorsoft and other software makers will say “We are not liable for the illegal use of our software.” That is true. But I say, “Stop advertising how to illegally use your softwre!”

  4. im a computer tech for many years and to do what you are talking about you can take the computer to a repair shop and have the tech [if he knows what he’s doing] find all that info for you the computer saves everything done on it even a format cannot delete it you just have to know how and where to look

  5. The computer was a present from Santa for the kids. The computer was in the kids room. There was another computer in the house, but the husband chose to carry out his inappropriate behavior in front of his kids. From my understanding the program was installed to monitor the kids behavior…the husband was just caught!

  6. Doubly foolish, since Florida is a No-Fault Divorce state anyway. Proving infidelity wouldn’t get her more money anyway.

  7. If the woman suspected her husband of improprieties and she wanted to use the evidence, she could have petitioned a judge for a wiretap order and done it legally. Her divorce attorney should have either advised her of the illegality, or pursued a court order to do it.

  8. Did the judge make a determination if the computer used was common or community property? If it was, then the spouse was using a key logger to monitor communications on her own property. In that situation it should not have been against the law.

  9. I suspect Derrick is working for the Bush administration. I have always assumed that my computer use at work was subject to scrutiny and thereby removed the worry by not writing anything I wanted to keep to myself. If monitoring is a condition of employment it really should be stated. Your personal computer is a different fish entirely and the courts have long held that a warrent is necessary to search a personal computer and rightly so. The political hacks in Washington are wrestling with this issue right now. I know that the issue is phone taps but key taps are just around the corner. This is not yet a police state to the obvious dissapointment of the privleged few.

  10. I agree that employers have the right to know if their resources are being misused however the key logging and monitoring of conversations should be illegal. There are methods to block the usage of offending programs but the use of anything that records a conversation should be deemed illegal.

  11. I think an employer has the right to know what their employees are doing via whatever surveillance method. However, the employees should be NOTIFIED they are being monitored IF that surveillance is via a video/audio recording of employee activity. Internet usage and monitoring is a different story because the employee’s individual, or person is not involved. In other words, beyond the recording of keystrokes this process of employee monitoring does not involve portrayal of the actual physical being of the employee. Regardless of how well deserving the offending employee may or may not be of this treatment, it can not therefore potentially be used to intimidate, harass, embarrass, or otherwise humiliate the employee. In my opinion un-notified employer monitoring of internet usage of employees AT work while utilizing equipment and or services provided by the employer is acceptable. The same goes for gathering information regarding inappropriate relationships/behavior affecting interpersonal relationships between spouses, significant others, friends, relatives and anyone who’s action may have a legitimate effect on the other person(s). This would act as a deterrent for using the internet to further such behavior and propagate physical and/or emotional harm to another. It would also aid the potentially offended person(s)in making a better and more informed decision regarding the relationship that exists. In the specific case of a spouse using this to catch another “cheating” is perfectly fine. If a person is using the internet to conduct this type of action, then this is not covered under personal privacy. The same does NOT apply to such matters a personal financial matters that the spouse has no legal right to. To say this is NOT appropriate would be akin to a bank robber claiming that police stakeout of a bank violated his personal privacy because they watched the bank he/she robbed! If a spouse is using the internet to perpetrate these activities, then one has every right to monitor the internet for such activities. Just as if banks are being robbed in a certain area, then law enforcement has every right to monitor the banks… simply because that is where the action is taking place. How could police apprehend a bank robber if they were prohibited from watching banks? Obviously there are some flaws in this analogy, however, it serves to illustrate my point… and that is this; if one is suspected of such behavior, what other method is there to “prove” this is indeed taking place? Simple confrontation… no, not really, that wouldn’t quell suspicions. Really, all that’s left is to just put up with the suspected behavior and wait to see what happens, how is that fair? No, the “offended” person in that case is WELL within their rights!!!
    What if for example instead of a cheating husband, the activity uncovered was a conspiracy to commit murder, would it then be considered inadmissible in court? What if the action had already occurred, could evidence found on a suspects PC be used against him? Of course it would be, so then use of such technology is admissible for such purposes as prevention of such harm or activity. Therefore it should follow that use of internet surveillance technology should be considered appropriate to uncover and prevent other types of physical and or emotional harm.

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